When applying to university as a care experienced student, it is easy to get caught up in the ‘disadvantaged’ rhetoric and preoccupied by the idea that only around 6% of care leavers go on to study at university (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/universities-asked-to-do-more-to-support-care-leavers). At the beginning of year 12, I was convinced that, as a care leaver, I would be lucky to get into any university – let alone Oxford University. Fast track to two years later and I’m grateful to be set to study at Oxford for the next four years. The path to Oxford as a care leaver can be different, but is not as daunting as it seems…
My first tip for any care experienced student considering an application would be to take full advantage of schemes such as the UNIQ summer schools and open days within colleges and faculties. For me, my week on UNIQ began to dismantle the preconceptions I had about the Oxford stereotype. By the end of the week, I realised that my care background was not important in my application. Remember, you aren’t judged on your background. Admissions tutors are looking for genuine potential and ability to thrive in the Oxford environment, not whether you come from a ‘typical’ upbringing.
Another tip would be to use any support that is available to you. My head of sixth form was invaluable throughout my application process, helping me to write my personal statement, prepping me for interviews and calming my ever-present nerves about not being what Oxford was looking for. Additionally, local authorities have specific pastoral and financial support for young people headed to university – you will be assigned a person dedicated to your progression to further education. Ask questions and find out exactly what you are entitled to! This is super useful, especially because it can also help calm any anxieties you may have around university finances and other pressures you might face as a care leaver.
Speaking from my own experience, colleges are also really helpful throughout the application process. As soon as January 9th arrived and I got my offer, my college invited me down to meet key people, such as the welfare lead and Senior Tutor, who would be central to life at Oxford. It is also worth speaking to your college about arranging moving dates and any other additional support you may need. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself (it can be scary communicating with academics for the first time), this is something your further education lead should help with!
The most important thing to remember is that coming from a care background should not be a barrier to you achieving your personal goals. If you are committed and hardworking and think that Oxford is the place for you, do not let your personal experiences stop you. Think of university as a fresh start. Maybe in a few years’ time, that 6% will have increased?